March 22, 2017
By Michael James LeClair
Through the first 16 minutes of the Division 2 State Finals on Saturday, March 18, the Nashoba Regional basketball team showed they belonged.
The Chieftains captured their first Central Mass title in 40 years just seven days prior to Saturday’s championship and then secured a berth in the state finals on March 13. Nashoba headed into the locker room against Eastern Mass powerhouse Brighton riding high and carrying momentum. Holding a one-point lead at half-time, Nashoba was 16 minutes away from its first state championship.
However, in the third quarter, the Bengals seized control and Nashoba wasn’t able to recover. Brighton dashed the Chieftains dreams of a title by knocking off the young men from Route 117 by an 82-58 margin at the Mass Mutual Center in Springfield.
For Nashoba, its magical season came to end on the commonwealth’s biggest stage. The Chieftains wrapped up their best campaign in program history an overall record of 21-5. For Brighton, it ends the year at 23-5 and brings home its second state championship in four years, last wearing the crown in 2013.
“That’s a very athletic team, a very good basketball team,” said Nashoba head coach Danny Ortiz. “I thought overall we gave them a pretty good game.”
Nashoba held a 35-34 lead heading into halftime but in the third quarter were held to just four points while the Bengals answered with 24 points of their own as Brighton entered the fourth quarter with a 58-39 advantage.
Try as they might, the hole the Chieftains found themselves in entering the fourth quarter was just too large to climb out of.
Senior guard Jordan Galloway collected 16 points and 4 steals to pace the winners, who had four players in double figures. Mykel Derring added 12 points and Johnny Ortiz tossed in 11 points.
For Nashoba, Justin Peirce finished with a game-high 20 points while teammate Andrew Fish contributed with 16 points. Trevor Manyak scored eight points and both Nate Mansour and Alex Jacobs each tossed in four points.
In the history of Central Mass. Division 2 boys’ basketball, only two schools have gone on to win state titles. Tantasqua Regional in Sturbridge was the last team to do it back in 2007. Prior to the Warriors the only other school to win a state title was St. Bernard’s Catholic High School in Fitchburg back in 1998.
Nashoba, who entered the postseason as the top-seed in Central Mass, had to win four tournament games to get to the state final. The Chieftains notched victories over Milford, Concord-Carlisle Regional and Groton-Dunstable Regional in the finals to win sectionals. Nashoba continued to believe and kept pushing forward as it knocked off Longmeadow at the DCU Center in Worcester in the state semifinals to set up its date with the Bengals.
Seven Chieftains played their final game for Nashoba on Saturday. Manyak, Alex Jacobs, Fish, Connor Jesson, Jonathan Campana, Mansour and Shane Regonini all put on the Chieftain basketball jersey for the final time.